Steel girders, strange passions, and personal ideals litter this six-hundred and ninety-four page tome written by Ayn Rand in one sneeze. Well, I’m probably exaggerating there. I don’t know much of Ayn’s writing habits. I do know that during the two weeks or so that I was trying to read this book I got the feeling that Ayn was a person who never shut up, but that’s silly. If she was a person who never stopped talking, she would never have enough time to write giant novels such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
You must understand that Ayn was a philosopher. She did not merely write because she loved writing. She wrote to put her views and points out into the world. She was also strange personally, having an affair with a much-younger married man at one point in her life. She had the guts to do things and say things that most of us would never dare say. Who before Ayn had written such gigantic novels? There have not been many people who have done so. Ayn pushes her ideologies through each of her works.
This book has us meeting two men in the beginning. They actually live together and go to the same school. One man is named Howard Roark and the other is named Peter Keating. Peter Keating is something of a goody-two shoes, butt kisser, who always smells like a rose. Howard is a bit of a daredevil who thinks outside the box and finds himself expelled from school with a year left to go. Both the men find their way to New York City to make something of the world.
Peter is soon picked up as a promising young star at an architecture firm called Francon. Howard must scramble to make ends meet, but desires to work under a man named Cameron. Cameron is an architect of the modern school of architecture. There are no Doric and Corinthian columns for him. The two men go about their lives for a time, but Peter comes to see Roark one day. He’s working on a design and none of it is really turning out right. Roark sketches over his design and gives him the first building that will propel Peter Keating into a life of well-known architecture and influential circles.
Along the way a man named Ellsworth Tooey is an architecture critic and also the uncle of the woman Peter Keating proclaims to love. Ellsworth plots to take over the world. He works for a newspaper called The Banner. The man who owns the banner is named Gail Wynand. Ellsworth despises the man for all his money and all his selfishness. Francon’s daughter, Dominique soon comes into the picture. Dominique is smart in her own way, but rather one-sided and unfaithful. Men all over the city desire her for her strange and cold beauty. It is only one man who is able to ignite anything close to resembling passion in Dominique Francon, that man is Howard Roark with all his new ideas for architecture and peculiar appearance, he has red hair.
Life goes on while Dominique schemes, Ellsworth schemes and Wynand schemes. The major players in this story are all schemers. As we watch our characters scheme we watch Howard Roark gain knowledge, gain experience and become even more eccentric than he started out. He holds a deep dedication to design. Things must be designed as he thinks they should be designed. It is art for art’s sake. It should exist for no other purpose than to be exactly as he put it down on paper. He’s a bit of a mad scientist in a way. Other people seek to bring him down because he is so individualistic. They aren’t comfortable with a man being so unlike anything they had known before.
Along the way, Dominique marries Peter Keating as a marriage of convenience more than anything else. She displays no emotion, but propels Peter even more into the spotlight of the architecture world. She pushes him to the top. Peter is the best. He becomes partner. He becomes owner. He is in high-demand, but of no real substance. At one point Peter literally sells his wife to Gail Wynand for the chance to design a housing project. Dominique marries Gail with a little more fervor than her first marriage. Some people are outraged that Gail has married a divorced woman, but it soon goes to the back’s of people’s minds. In the meantime, Ellsworth has been plotting heavily and he particularly hates Howard Roark.
Eventually, matters come to a head. Gail is left with a major strike and the worst kind of press bad-mouthing that money can buy. Howard is arrested and set free on bail. Dominique makes her own plans. Howard defends himself in his court trial and lets people know what he really thinks of all their stupid ideas.
What I liked
There are a lot of ways in which I really enjoy Ayn Rand. She professes this idea of valuing you. What makes you, you, is awesome and amazing. She doesn’t really stand too much for people melting in to one another. She doesn’t like big corporations or people who seem to be empty. I totally agree with her. If you don’t have individuality, you don’t have anything. You cannot depend on other people to create your personality. You have to do that on your own.
I like architecture and I was even accepted into architectural school at one point. I really like the idea. I like discussing buildings and the architects who created them. So that part of the book really appealed to me. Ayn’s timing was very apt. The book is initially set in the 1920s, which was a time when architecture was changing. People were changing how they looked at buildings, artwork and music. It was a bit of a revolution if that makes any sense.
What I didn’t like
It took me a very long time to read this book, a very long time. I don’t like it when books take so long to read. Ayn’s books are especially challenging to read because she is so philosophical. There are parts you can skip over, if you so desire. You’re not going to miss a ton if you skip over a page or two here and there, but you will miss some of Ayn’s ideals. It just takes forever for her to explain what her ideals are. I don’t know how she managed to have so much concentration on one subject.
Look this book isn’t about Howard Roark. It’s not. It’s about what Ayn Rand thinks about. It should probably be called “What Ayn Rand thinks: Volume 2.” While the story is mildly entertaining and does have its twists and turns, it’s not this blockbuster story. We aren’t going to be sitting around, years from now, retelling her story. We will be talking about her ideals, but we will not be telling Ayn’s stories. That’s why some people failed miserably at the very idea of making Atlas Shrugged into a movie. It’s not about the story. It’s not about the characters. It’s not about the setting. It’s purely about the ideal Ayn thinks is best.
I’m glad I’ve managed to read it and I probably won’t read it again for a very long time, if ever.
architecture, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, books about architects, howard roark, peter keating, the fountainhead, The fountainhead by ayn rand
Classic Fiction, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Historical Fiction, Rand-Ayn, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary